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UX Research Leads to Richer Library Websites

UX Research Panel

(L-R) Nathan Carlson, Amy Luedtke, Stephanie Rosso, Iain Lowe

Iain Lowe, Product Director, BiblioCommons, began by discussing research and how its application can improve the user experience (UX). Why do we conduct research? Every assumption is a risk, so research is done. Some of it (contextual inquiry) involves watching users as they interact with the systems. Chalkmark is used to measure how long it takes people to do a task. Open feedback is the most prominent application; librarians are very willing to give feedback; here are the results of one study done last year.

Results from study

Representations of users are created: occasional borrower, frequent borrower, and master borrower, and their technical skills, tasks they do, are studied.

Stephanie Rosso, Principal Web Developer and Amy Luedtke, Sr. Librarian at Hennepin County Library, Minneapolis, MN described usability testing at their library. They have conducted 61 tests since May 2015. Three participants at each session were asked to complete several tasks. Mobile testing is done at remote branches; participants are volunteers or regular library users (and a staff member is available as a backup in case of no shows). Participants are in one room, and observers watch what they are doing on PCs in another room. A total of 39 student teams have conducted tests with 195 participants since May 2015.

Testing depends on the development cycle and increases awareness of possible areas of development and helps understand the perspective of users. Watching users interact with your site is a good way to learn. Usability testing does have limitations, such as these:

Usability Testing Limitations

Even within the limitations, the core principle is that some user testing is better than none. You will learn from every test. Commit to small, frequent, and iterative changes. User testing helps to gain empathy with users and provide better customer service.

Nathan Carson, Librarian at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, MN, noted that the university has one library that is open to the public. The university was founded to provide education to working people. They undertook a website redesign project in 2014, and the library gained access to the development process and learned that it is important to know your users, keep the process casual, and think outside your domain.

User journey maps revealed what people to on the website; the main reason is to find resources. OptimalSort is used to find out what are the main content areas and needs that people have. Axure was also used to create prototypes (wireframes) of new web pages.

Users want information about your library, and it will appear on Google which uses Wikipedia to populate its information card (on the right side of the screen), like this:

Google page for the library

Make sure your site is mobile-friendly. Do you have a Wikipedia page for your library?  You should!

6 Responses to UX Research Leads to Richer Library Websites

  1. Amy Luedtke March 29, 2017 at 5:55 pm #

    Thanks so much for blogging about our presentation. We really enjoyed talking about UX research and thank CiL for the opportunity and thank everyone who came to hear us and share with us. Just a quick clarification: Since May 2015, Hennepin County Library ( — includes the city Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs of Hennepin County) staff have been conducting ongoing monthly usability testing. We’ve also had a partnership with Dr. Lee-Ann Breuch and her usability class at the University of MN since 2013 and they conduct separate tests on our website. Our presentation included findings from usability tests done by both HCL librarians and University of MN students.

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